When Leeson Street was the centre of the universe (at least, it was if you wanted an after hours drink)

Leeson Street at night: There was a time when it would be a packed as Grafton Street on Christmas Eve


I mentioned a few pubs the other day and it seems that I’m not the only one who remembers drinking dens which closed their doors many years ago.

But of course, back then, when we drank in those now long gone pubs, we had to leave before midnight, unless we were lucky enough to have a lock in.

So where did we go?

First port of call was Leeson Street where, in many basements, nightclubs kept serving over-priced wine until dawn.

When I say “nightclubs” the licences for these places described them as restaurants.

More than once, as I sat at a table in one of them, a dirty plate, with the scraps of a meal and a knife and fork was hurriedly placed in front of me and the other, eh, diners seconds before a Garda strolled through the club.

The clubs were many and varied.

I wouldn’t say the memories come flooding back – it’s more of a trickle.

A deluge? How dare you!

I was an occasional visitor to the likes of Pink Elephant, Zhivago, Blinkers, Peekers, Joys, Leggs, Barbarellas, Mr Pussy’s, Suesey Street, Maxwell Plum’s and one or two whose names escape me.

I do remember my last visit to Blinkers, the nightclub situated in Leopardstown Racecourse.

As we arrived, there were a couple of girls giving out cans of Impulse body spray.

Clearly, most of those who received the cans couldn’t wait until they got home before spraying the contents all over themselves.

This resulted in the interior of the place being clouded with the damned stuff. You couldn’t breathe.

Then there was Mr Pussy’s on Suffolk Street where you might bump into Bono or some other well-known person who, like you, was in need of a post-midnight milk shake.

Yes, the only drink you could get was a milk shake.

Mind you, the flavours available were vodka, gin, whiskey and tequilla etc.

Zhiivago -it was over what is now Tesco on Baggot Street and it became The Sunday Tribune

Zhivago was another famous one.

It has very mixed memories for me.

The club was over a supermarket on Baggot Street.

And I was in it on the night of November 13 1984.

I was with two friends who ran a pub and restaurant in Tralee. They had always wanted to try the Mirabeau in Sandycove so we went there and then on to Zhivago for a late night drink.

I went to the bar to order a bottle of wine and, as she turned away to get the bottle I heard the girl who served men mention the name John Feeney.

When she turned back, I said I hoped she hadn’t been saying anything bad about my colleague, John.

“You haven’t heard,” she said.

“Heard what?” I asked.

“Look. Go over to your table and I’ll bring your wine.”

I did. I told the others in my party that there was something odd going on.

When she came to the table, the girl told me John was dead. That he had died in a plane crash in England.

I knew immediately that if John was dead, that my editor Niall Hanley was dead too. I’d been talking to him earlier in the day about the trip, the Beaujolais Nouveau trip.

I ran to call the office to hear that two more colleagues, Tony Heneghan and Kevin Marron were also among the dead.

Later, we heard that wine merchant Cormac Cassidy, restaurateur Arrigo Chichi, Francois Schelbaum manager of Sands nightclub and pilot Jack Walsh had also died.

The final victim was Pat Gibbons, coincidentally one time owner of Zhivago.

In another coincidence, I ended up working in that very room for a few years when, after the nightclub closed down, it became the office of the Sunday Tribune.

I wonder if everyone my age has a nightclub memory from Dublin back then?

God, there were so many to choose from, all legally a bit dodgy.

I think of the names: Club Sarah in Rathfarnham, Nightowls in Ranelagh, The Pink Elephant off Molesworth Street, Rumours beside the Gresham, Buck Whaley’s, Suesey Street and Leggs on Leeson Street, Sloopys on Fleet Street, Peekers in Dun Laoghaire, Joys – or as Mickser Hand used to call it “Áthas” on Baggot Street, Club M in Temple Bar, Barbarellas down the lane from Zhivago, Sardis, Flamingos, Fireworks on Pearse Street, Tiffany’s, Tamango, Samanthas, Bojangles, Maxwell Plum’s and Lord John’s.

And there were more I’m too old to have frequented!

I’d say thanks for the memories to the ones I did visit, but there are parts I don’t actually remember at all!


3 thoughts on “When Leeson Street was the centre of the universe (at least, it was if you wanted an after hours drink)

  1. Michael G. Floyd

    Back in the daze I spent most of my weekends traveling to activities all over the country. Spent a lot of time in Dubland. Had a girlfriend in the city whom I used to meet here and there. We had a date one Saturday Night on her home turf. All I knew was she lived near the Burlington. Harrington/Haddington Rd. memory fades. Got the bus up. My directions were Baggot Bridge turn left and wait.
    So Got a taxi. He, Where to, Me Baggot St.Bridge. He I left a few new girls up there earlier. Me, I’m meeting my girlfriend, He, You should not stick to the same one, try the new ones. Me, No we have been meeting for a while, though this is the first time up here. We usually meet down the country. He, that must cost . Me ,no I have Bike and a tent. He, A tent. Me, A gang of us go, herself and her friends have an 8 man tent and I have a 2 man and the lads have their own tents. He, Must cost a bit, Me No we get a group rate, 50 pence per person., He Jeez that is a new one..
    We arrived I paid the fare, Met the girl. Told her about the conversation, she told her mates who took the weewee out of me all night about group rates. When I copped on I was as they say ‘I was Scarlet’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Trevor O doherty

    I remember the lesson street days the cheap German wine great old days

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alan Guerins

    And of course Nigel tbe rose man would always be courteous and offer to sell you a rose or two.

    Liked by 1 person

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